John Waters

John Waters movies can either terrify or seduce you. He can screw with your mind and warp your thoughts. He can also enlighten, and nudge people to accept the perverse, the strange, the abnormal, the uncomfortable and other social misfits of our society. Sex, violence, obscenities, bizarre and unthinkable fetishes and addictions are all markers of a Waters film.

The Steve Buscemi look-alike – dubbed the “Pope of Trash” and the “Prince of Puke” – was born April 22, 1946 in Baltimore. At 16-years-old, he started making movies. He made it big with the controversial film Pink Flamingos in 1972. Other popular films followed: Hairspray, Polyester, Cry Baby, Female Trouble, Serial Mom, Pecker, Cecil B. DeMented and his last release, A Dirty Shame. His movies always create a stir, but they are extolled as much as they are condemned. He often ridicules the religious right, and makes social commentary on drugs, sex, abortion, adoption and gay issues.

While his movies mark him as being somewhat of a wild child, in person he looks more like a buttoned-up nerdy uncle. Somewhere behind his curious, kind smile, peewee mustache and infectious laughter, is a wicked sense of humor – and a dirty mind.

How would you seduce a John Waters virgin, someone who’s never seen any of your movies?
These days I’m always amazed that fans come up to me and say, “My parents turned me on to your movies.” Times have changed. I guess the squarer they are… I’d start them out with Hairspray. Because even though that is the most subversive movie I ever made … it touches them in a Hallmark way. If it’s a kid… well, parents bring me their fucked up kids, like an overweight girl with like 13 bolts in her face and a big scowl. And I say, “You know what, maybe she should open a tattoo shop.” Work with what you’ve got. That’s the thing. You can’t order up the version of your child that you want. I went through a lot of battles with my parents when I was young. Now I realize how incredibly supportive they were. I guess I’d give that girl with the big chip on her shoulder Female Trouble. It’s about an overweight girl that, well, she got the electric chair in the end, but at least she had some fun.

Is there a difference between who people think you are and who you really are?
Not too much anymore. I think in the beginning people thought I lived in a trailer and ate dog shit. They thought Divine was really a transvestite. Divine was never in drag except in the movies. I certainly never lived in a trailer and I take that as a compliment that it was so badly filmed that they thought it was a documentary. I’ve been doing this some 40-odd years. I think I’m treated with respect. I’m trying to hijack Vincent Price’s career and, after all, I was in a Chucky movie. I try to have many different careers. For example, I have a contemporary art career with my photography and a museum show that traveled all over the world.

What do you think is gross?
I think gross is humor that looks down on a subject matter, that makes fun of it in a classist way, that has no irony to it. That is bad taste. That isn’t funny. That doesn’t change anything and it’s smirking and thinking it’s superior – that the writer is superior to the subject matter.

What makes you laugh?
People that think they’re normal but are totally insane. That’s why I live in Baltimore. And I live in New York, where everyone thinks they’re insane but they’re totally normal. Baltimore is way more cutting-edge than Manhattan as far as going out.

Let’s do a quick word association. I’ll give you a word. Tell me what comes to your mind. God.
God. A word that is so abused today and basically what I guess brings many people comfort, which I’m all for. It generally seems to be used as an angry person that judges others, which if that’s true, I don’t worship that God.

Creepy, but it surely isn’t hurting any of the stars that are one. You know, maybe it teaches you to not be gay. I don’t know.

Well, it’s been my best press agent my whole life. I still fight it. The Catholic Church attacked my last movie (A Dirty Shame). The Motion Picture Association gave it a NC-17 and caused me a lot of trouble. I thought a NC-17 couldn’t hurt me. I was wrong. Even art theater chains in some cities wouldn’t play it. You always fight it but try to use it in your favor.

Why do you like pushing envelopes?
You know I don’t even realize that I am. To me, humor is how you change people’s opinions and if you can make somebody laugh, they’ll listen, even if they hate you. I’ve gotten through life with humor. So to me, what pushing the envelope generally means is, what can be funny?

– Christa Martin

Reading by Lena, who has no idea this palm belongs to John Waters.

1. This is a very sensitive person with a very strong spiritual life. Their sensuousness will be sensuousness of the soul, rather than of the body. Inspiring views or music will feed them.

2. Kind and competent. He will tend to do effective favors for people. The sort of person who, if he does do you a favor, it will actually be of benefit because of his sensitivity towards the needs of others.

3. Has a large and tumultuous family of those who raised him through childhood and each member has left a little part of themselves in his soul. His art will actualize memories from these people – both the hurts and the joys – in ways he is not consciously aware.

4. Having survived his childhood, his health is excellent for the rest of his life.

5. A true multi-tasker and one who begins many more tasks than they can possibly complete. There are projects that may lie dormant for 20 or 30 years and then suddenly burst into the bloom of completion.

6. A multitude of children will be drawn to him in this life, far more than the number that he will give birth to. Children and young people will see him as a mentor and will want to grow up to be like him.